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Old Saida Archeological Site Museum


Historical Site Preservation and New Site Museum Design

When a Historical Site Becomes a Contemporary Expression

At the interface between the old medieval and the new city of Saida lies an archeological site which has witnessed the passage of time and civilization. Khatib & Alami is undertaking the complete design of a site museum in the city of Saida.


Project Framework:

It is a “5 phase” project that includes the restoration of the archeological remains, the renovation of a 19th century house and the construction of a new museum to exhibit the objects found during the 10 years of the British Museum’s archeological excavation.
Khatib & Alami will also be working to implement the museographic program to integrate a pedagogic system, seminar and cultural facilities, and multiple functions related to the museum such as restoration workshops, logistics and administration. The project is a Kuwait Grant, through “the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development (KFAED)”


Data Collection and Analysis:

Khatib & Alami collected different types of data in order to understand the existing conditions at different levels. The data collection included the following:

1- Topographical, architectural and cadastral survey needed for site analysis.
2- Physical, socioeconomic and administrative data needed for urban analysis.
3- List of objects to be exposed and the archeological remains in situ, needed for the museum concept and the program definition.

The data analysis performed by Khatib & Alami specialists, including architects, archeologists, urban planners, restorers, museum planners and designers, led to the establishment of basic guidelines for the project, which were fixed after many workshops between K&A specialists and other concerned parties, such as the KFAED, the DGA, the CDR and the team from the British Museum.


Main Constraints:

The key challenges in Saida Archeological Museum are many: firstly, the process of coordinating in the same program the complete restoration and animation of the archeological site, the rehabilitation of a 19th-century house and the design of a new site museum; secondly, the location of the new museum on top of the archeological site and thirdly, its urban integration at the interface between the old medieval Saida and the new city.


Project Implementation:


The building is situated on the north side of the site. It covers 1550 m² of the archeological excavation.

There are two main structural walls on both sides of the remains, to preserve them and to consolidate the existing retaining wall. The structure of the deck is a continuous system of 18.5m span girders installed on longitudinal cross beams . This construction system is interrupted where voids and openings are needed. Therefore another structural deck system is provided and the structure is suspended from major beams in the roof level.

The median vertical cores and structures were located inside the site only where the bedrock was reached during the British Museum excavations and where no major remains are found. A footbridge is designed inside the archeological crypt, to provide visitors with a general overview of the remains as they enter, and then a closer view of the details on the way back.


Urban Articulation:


The Site Museum is accessible through a piazza on the road connecting the land castle to the sea castle of Saida. The piazza is designed in this location to open up the urban landscape, animating the street from one side, and connecting the new city with the old city on the other side, as defined in the urban analysis.



The main elevation follows the same proportions and dimensions of the city skyline. Looking from the new city side, the project has a continuously integrated façade, while looking from the old city side, the non-elevated vertical volumes prepare the transition from the old to the new city.

The old fence of the “college des frères” and the related main gate were preserved, even though the museum has been aligned with the street; the upper levels protrude from the building to ensure this alignment, to allow space for technical areas, to provide shadow on the exhibitions external vertical surfaces, and finally to form a double skin system for energy saving.

Competing alongside international and local firms to work on the project, Khatib & Alami was awarded the Old Saida Archeological Site Museum, due to the company’s profound understanding of heritage and knowledge about the preservation and conservation of historical buildings and sites.


Key Components:

The lobby of the museum is directly accessible from the covered piazza, where visitors can gather before entering. They can benefit from the adjacent cafeteria services before or after the visit. The cafeteria occupies the ground floor of the existing 19th-century DGA house. The distribution hall leads to the permanent exhibition that is connected to the site and is part of the complementary museum program.

It also leads to the temporary exhibition and the other cultural activities located on the upper level. This area is connected to the service core for maintenance and preservation purposes, as well as to the temporary exhibition preparations.


Integration in the Urban Context:


The museum building is aligned with the street to provide continuity with the existing old buildings, and to repair the gap in the urban fabric on the east side of the old city, which occurred due to the demolition of several 19th-century houses and a school because of the archeological excavations.


Passive Design and Green Architecture:

The museum design features a number of energy-saving measures. The body of the building is insulated on all sides, shadowing devices on elevations and the roof has been studied and a natural and forced ventilation system inside the building – in addition to the classical system – has been implemented. The design considered passive physical interventions to reduce energy consumption, by heating less, and cooling less during a long period of the year.


Ventilation System:

The concept of the natural and forced ventilation is the same in both parts of the museum: the permanent exhibition area, and the cultural activities area.
1- Benefit from the cool covered area of the archeological site to refresh the whole museum building during the hot season.
2- Reuse the same features integrated for that system in cold seasons in an appropriate way. In extreme hot and cold seasons, the classical HVAC system is used. These parallel systems will effectively reduce energy consumption, and consequently the related bill.


In Conclusion

The multidisciplinary facets of the project have required a pool of experts including architects, archeologists, urban planners, restorers, museum planners and designers from Khatib & Alami.

These experts have worked closely with the different parties involved in order to set up the design guidelines for the project’s development and the museum's diverse architecture and design.

Detailed design is completed. The tendering process should be finalized before summer 2012.